National Cherry Blossom Festival Makes Late Changes

Our clocks were not the only thing to spring forward in the past few days. Warmer-than-usual winter temperatures have stirred up a frenzy in our nation’s capital. Cherry blossoms are budding early, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival has moved its start date. Why is this a big deal, and how does it impact your plans? 

America’s largest springtime celebration, the National Cherry Blossom Festival, draws approximately 1.5 million visitors to Washington, DC, each year. Visitors flock to our nation’s capital to admire the beautiful pink and white flowers that paint the Tidal Basin and the surrounding landscapes dotted with historical monuments and memorials. 

Peak Bloom

Cherry Blossoms at Washington DC

Each year, the National Park Service (NPS) maintains a website dedicated to the bloom watch, predicting when we will reach the exquisite peak bloom. 

So, what is peak bloom? It is when 70% of the buds around the Tidal Basin have opened and the ideal time for visitors to be in Washington, DC.

The weather enormously influences when the cherry trees achieve the coveted feat. Unfortunately, the weather is unpredictable. Peak bloom is so difficult to predict that the NPS can only provide accurate projections about ten days out. Accordingly, festival organizers and travelers alike must be flexible in their plans.

In a typical year, the cherry trees achieve peak bloom in the last week of March or the first week of April. So, the National Cherry Blossom Festival typically starts around the first day of spring. 

The NPS states the earliest peak bloom on record is March 15 (1990), while the latest is April 18 (1958). For now, the record for the earliest peak bloom should be safe. However, the NPS predicts an early peak bloom from March 22 – 25, 2023.

Due to current projections, our nation’s capital expects many visitors to arrive before the first day of spring. In anticipation, the National Cherry Blossom Festival organizers moved the start date from March 20 to March 18.

Park rangers and festival staff will now be present in the Tidal Basin Welcome Area as of March 18 to answer questions and assist visitors. In the Tidal Basin Welcome Area, you will also find a performance stage, information and activity booths, and food tents.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Events

The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 18 – April 16, 2023. Here are the current dates, times, and locations for all of the festival’s signature events:

Pink Tie Party

  • When: March 16, 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm
  • Where: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

Tidal Basin Welcome Area & ANA Stage

  • When: March 18 – April 2, 2023
  • Where: West Basin Drive SW

Blossom Kite Festival

  • When: March 25, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm (rain date is March 26)
  • Where: Washington Monument Grounds

Opening Ceremony

  • When: March 25, 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
  • Where: Warner Theatre

Petalpalooza

  • When: April 8, 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm (fireworks start at 8:30)
  • Where: Capitol Riverfront at The Yards

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

  • When: April 15, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Where: Constitution Avenue NW, between 7th and 17th Streets

Impact on Your Plans

Does this mean you need to change your flights? Not necessarily. The entire blooming period can last up to 14 days. Park rangers regularly advise visitors that the best viewing time lasts four to seven days after peak bloom begins.

If you made plans to visit Washington, DC, in mid to late April, chances of seeing the cherry blossoms will be low, and you may want to explore alternative options.

Wrap-Up: National Cherry Blossom Festival 2023

Visit the NPS bloom watch site for updates regarding peak bloom predictions. Whether you attend in person or watch highlights online, the festival honors Japan’s early 1900s gift of cherry trees to the United States and celebrates American and Japanese culture. Spring is a time of renewal. Let’s admire the beautiful cherry blossoms and celebrate the warmer, brighter days ahead.

Featured image credit: Kyaw Tun

More Articles from Miles with McConkey

About the author

View of Glacier Bay from cruise ship

Scott McConkey is a nationally syndicated travel writer and the founder of Miles with McConkey, where he provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and inspiration. His travel articles have been seen in The Associated Press wire, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, MSN, and many more. He and his wife, Julie, left the corporate world after nearly 30 years for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year has evolved into a second act. She creates visual content while he utilizes the written word. Their goal is to create content inspiring others to travel more and live their best lives now.